Red Israeli wines are essentially dead to me, the white wines overall are not much better

Another year and another disappointment for Israeli wines overall. I have recently returned from a quick trip to Israel to be at the last of three JK and LK’s weddings that they have thrown this year for their boys. This was the oldest son, and a young man I saw grow up before my eyes, much akin to his younger twin brothers, which as stated above, also got married this year.

This trip we tried to concentrate on reds and whites, I am done with Rose wines for the year. Much to my chagrin, the 2016 reds are a dud at best. The only 2016 red Israeli wine that I would buy, and have bought, are the 2016 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin and the 2016 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel. I will be honest, it was a shocker. Tzora’s 2016 wines and even Domaine de Netofa’s 2016 reds were ripe, riper than I would invest in. I have yet to taste the 2016 Domaine du Netofa Latour Red, I hope to taste that on my next trip to Israel.

Sadly, the 2017 whites were not much better, they all had a serious lack of complexity and acid. Sure, winemakers can and do add tartaric acid to their wines, but clearly, the wine was not showing that in ways that impressed me or others who tasted many of these wines blind.

Now, to be fair, there were some 2017 whites that did show well, and they are listed in a previous post here. With that said, the best 2017 white so far this year, that I have tasted came from Yaacov Oryah. His 2017 whites blew me away, and in 2018, he took all his red grapes and only made white and orange wines, and YES finally even a Rose wine from them! Talk about betting on anything other than red wines! Looking forward to tasting them next year! I will post the 2017 whites in my next post.

Red Wine for the masses

I know this post will offend people, and that is really not the point of the post. The point of me stating that I could care less for Israeli red wines at this point is to show the sad progression of the date juice crisis.

Look, this is nothing new, since 2009 for most Israeli wineries, and especially following the 2011 vintage (for the rest of them), Israeli wineries changed their style of winemaking to please the masses. Take Teperberg as a perfect example. Their 2011 wines were awesome, old-world in so many ways, but in 2012, they went the opposite direction and have been selling their wines in mass, to the masses, by changing their winemaking style, and yeah their labels, but everyone changed their labels. They went to a far more fruit-forward and ripe wine, one that I cannot begin to appreciate, but one that sells fantastically here in the USA, and in the end, that is really all a massive winery like Teperberg cares about.

I do not mean that in an offensive way at all. Wineries are a business and if they are not able to sell the millions of bottles that they make with a certain style of wine than they have to change the product.

That is what most of Israel’s wineries did. They changed to fruitier and riper wines and they have been succeeding so far with that approach. What that means for me, is that I will continue to concentrate on Europe and America, in terms of the wines I buy.

Too Much Wine

Besides the mass of date juice bottles that now exists on the shelves across the wine shelves in Israel, Europe, and the United States, there is just too much of it. There are new wineries popping up every year, more and more of these boutique Israeli wineries, that have no way to differentiate themselves from the next, other than more years in oak and more fruit and tannin, and of course more exclusivity and higher prices, like that would ever make me want to buy a wine! But I assure you, for the masses, it is like a moth to the flame.

The wines all taste the same. I went to a wine tasting a couple of months ago in NY, and the wines were all horrible date juice, but they were the same date juice, nothing that differentiated them from the next wine over. Not a single unique aspect.

Israel will face the issue soon if it is not already facing it now. I ask the winemakers and they say they are selling all the wines perfectly well. But when I talk to shop owners the story I get is very different. Wines are not moving and they sit on the shelves, the prices are too high, they are no different than the wine on the shelf over, and they all look the same.

Different varietals

At least a few wineries are trying to make something other than Cabernet Sauvignon, but sadly those do not sell well. There is a reason why Herzog Winery has some 20+ Cabernet Sauvignon wines! YES! 20 plus, closer to 25 or more I think. Same with Yarden and other wineries in Israel, where the focus continues to be on Cabernet.

Vitkin, Domaine du Netofa, Recanati, Capsouto, Covenant Winery Israel, Tzora Winery, and others are trying to change the ONENESS that plagues Israeli wineries, but they too have been hitting resistance. Why? Because as much as they and others talk about the need for more options outside of Cabernet, and how the ecology and terroir of Israel are more suited to Rhone or Spanish varietals, the truth is that Israeli and American palates only understand Cabernet Sauvignon. That is the sad truth. It takes a lot of money and perseverance to try to push a rock up the hill or change the palates of the kosher wine masses. So far, the date juice palates are pummeling the old-world palates. There is no real way to hide from this simple and true fact, and while I guess I could care less, I wonder when this will all come back to roost on the Israeli wineries.

As I have stated many times, red wines have at least a 2+ year cost from crush until the release and then the next red wine vintage’s release. If the public starts to move or change their desires, wineries will be left holding the bag, a very expensive bag. Until then, the wine is selling, even if they are all the same stuff. Even among the red non-Cabernet Sauvignon wineries, the wines when tasted blind really do taste the same. There is little to no uniqueness. It is just really ripe dry red wine, some showing some finesse, but for the most part, sledgehammer wines that meet the least common denominator requirement of ripe and round wines that can be consumed ASAP.

Again, I know I will receive lots of hate mail, I understand, that is fine with me. I am simply stating things as I see it. Sadly, there are others as well that have the same issues, in varying degrees, and the sad truth is that Israel does not have the desire today, to make a wine that is as good as some of the wines from California, let alone Europe. They have proven in the past that they CAN make wines that are as good as California’s kosher options, but almost all of them have sold out to what is selling today, at the cost of the lowest common denominator consumer, who are seemingly holding them all hostage.

I hope the 2017 vintage of red wines will turn things around but I highly doubt it. Sadly, the 2015 and 2016 Capcanes reds have also joined this very fruit forward winemaking approach. The 2015 Peraj Ha’abib was not a wine I bought much of if any, outside of the few I needed for three tastings. The 2016 vintage, here so far is mevushal and is a disaster. The 2016 and 2017 Peraj Petita, NOT mevushal, are not fun to horrible wines. The earlier vintages continue to show well, and time will tell for the newer vintages, the Carignan and Grenache wines, we have yet to see the 2015 vintages of those wines. The 2015 Capcances Pinot Noir was and is still very nice and 2016 is not yet available here in the USA.

The Blind Wine Tastings

There were two separate wine tastings, one at JK’s office and one at AD’s house in Beit Shemesh. My many thanks to both of these guys for putting up with me, and my many thanks to the gang of guys who joined us and brought wines, and were able to put up with me during the tastings. Those would be AD, JK, AO, OM, AK, and NA. Again, my many thanks and the wines were brought by both me and the other guests. The wines were all tasted blind with silver foil wrapping the bottles.

The wine notes follow below (all tasted blind) – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

These two wines are posted here for completeness but were not part of the tastings.

2016 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin – Score: 92 to 93
This wine is a beast, decant it forever and it will still not change much! I am still tasting it 2 days after being opened and nothing much has changed about it. It is crazy closed and big.
The wine is a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 11% Petit Verdot. The nose on this wine is filled with dark fruit, black and red, with ripeness abounding, showing rich mint, menthol, and hints of blue fruit, with ripe juicy cherry, and ripe blackberry, with inky notes of tar, and mineral. The mouth is incredible and richly extracted, showing an elegance that is both expressive and yet elegant with mineral and richly expressive blackberry, dark plum, fruity and expressive with chocolate notes that give way to mouth drying tannin and rich fruit. The finish is long and tannic and green with dark fruit, intense dark chocolate, rich tobacco, and lovely earth and sweet spices like nutmeg and green herbs. Bravo! Drink from 2022 till 2027.

2016 Domaine du Castel Petite Castel – Score: 90
The wine is a blend of 60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot. The nose on this wine is ripe just like the Grand Vin, with loads of oak, and ripe blue fruit peeking through, followed by dark berry, blackberry, plum, dark rich berry, and spice. The mouth is rich and layered, with an impressive first hit of rich chocolate, ripe but more controlled with black forest berry, dried and candied raspberry, followed by mineral and rich extraction that is wrapped in mouth drying tannin, and nice graphite. The finish is long, dark, and green with foliage, followed by coffee, chocolate, with earth and lovely green notes, with tobacco and more mineral. Nice! Drink by 2026.

——– end of the two Castel wines tasted at home —————————–

2017 Domaine Netofa Latour White – Score: 89
This wine started off really funky, and not in a good way, but with time it turned around. To start it tasted and smelled very off, with boiled fruit, candied scary fruit. With time it opened, showing more akin to 2016, but sadly it lacked the acid of the 2016 vintage, with straw, oak, earth, mineral, and nice spice, that gives way to heather, floral notes. The mouth is now open, but sadly the mouth lacks the acid to bring it around, the wine feels a bit flat with pear, apricot, and green apple, with nice oak and vanilla. Drink now.

2017 Dalton Fume Blanc – Score: 90
What a fun wine, zesty, tart, not overly tropical, with fresh flavors, and did I say fun?? The nose on this wine is classical, gooseberry, passionfruit, with green notes, nice mineral, and fun fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is bright, tart, with rich acidity, great mineral, lovely saline, followed by green apple, rich grapefruit, lemon/key lime pie, and really good fruit focus. The finish is long, green, tart, fruity, yet really well controlled, with herb, menthol, and wine that is nicely complex yet so enjoyable to drink – BRAVO!!! Drink Now.

2017 Domaine Netofa White – Score: NA
The bottle was corked.

2017 Domaine Netofa Tel Qasser, White – Score: 91 to 92
Lovely wine, sadly I knew what it is, lovely Roussanne, showing earth, mineral, rich brightness, with loads of heather, lovely floral notes, with straw, yellow plum, and apple. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is layered, rich, and nicely extracted, showing rich oily structure, with layers of green apple, quince, lovely richness, with mineral, grass, straw, and lovely acidity showing long with flowers, and rich lemongrass. Lovely!! Drink until 2022.

2017 Gvaot Chardonnay/Cab – Score: 90
This may well be one of the better vintages for this wine. As always it is a blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Blanc de Cabernet Sauvignon. Nice nose, classic chard nose, with rich green apple, quince, nice sweet oak, and control. The mouth is rich and layered, with creme brulee, rich saline, and creaminess, showing rich fruit structure, pear, Asian pear, brioche, and apple. Nice. Drink until 2022.

2017 Bat Shlomo Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 70
Sadly this winery continues to make wines that are not enjoyable. It is sad because their first two vintages were actually solid wines. The nose on this wine is disjointed, sweet, smelly, and off-putting notes. Sadly, the mouth does not get better. No.

2017 Dalton Chenin Blanc – Score: 87
A nice enough wine. The nose starts off nicely, with good fruit, mineral, and spice, with loads of oak, and sweet spices. The mouth is oaky, with loads of wood, and little fruit. With time it opens more to show too much fruit, tropical in nature. Nice enough.

2016 Carmel Kayoumi Riesling – Score: 91 to 92
This is why I love tasting wines blind! When I tasted this wine, I thought it was European, with its mineral and lovely Funk, only to be pleasantly surprised that it is an Israeli Riesling! It is not quite as good as the 2014 vintage, but it is still very good indeed! The nose on this wine shows a crazy fun riesling, stinky, smelly, with loads of stink, showing sweet fruit, apple, mineral. The mouth is layered and full in the mouth with nice apple, peach, and dry apricot, showing crazy petrol notes, floral notes, loads of honeysuckle, white flowers, with good mouthfeel, and richness. The finish is long and green and petrol notes. Bravo! Drink until 2023.

2017 Netofa Tel Qasser – Score: 89
This wine is ripe, sweet, with sweet notes of blueberry, earth, strawberry, ripe plum, and earth. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe, round, and needs time to open, with time, it shows sweet, with ripe boysenberry, root beer, and earth. Nice enough. Drink until 2021.

2015 Avidan Nebbiolo – Score: NA
This wine is oxidized raisin juice, pass.

2017 Vitkin Cabernet Sauvignon, Emek Hefer – Score: 75
Another Israeli sweet wine, the smell is ripe and unenjoyable.

2013 Lueria Rosso – Score: NA
Tastes extra ripe and over the hill.

2017 Domaine Netofa, Red – Score: 90
Thank god for Netofa – the smell alone tells you a good wine is here. The nose is blueberry, ripe strawberry, raspberry, and earth. This is nice, the nose is ripe, but balanced, with lovely mineral, blue fruit, raspberry, dark cherry, and earth. The mouth is round, earthy, and nice, showing blueberry, raspberry, root beer, and hints of watermelon, that give way to spice, vanilla, and spice. Nice! Drink until 2022.

2016 Matar Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: NA
Classic Israeli date juice – cannot handle this stuff.

2017 Recanati Med Blend, Red – Score: NA
Corked Israeli date Juice

2016 Dalton Scarlet, Alma – Score: NA
Oxidized Israeli date juice.

2014 Galil Grenache Noir – Score: NA
More oxidized date juice.

2017 Teperberg Devotage, Inspire (Malbec/Marselan) – Score: 70
Raisiny Israeli wine. Really pushed wine, sweet, with blue and red fruit.

2016 Ben Zimra 26, Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: 60
Nice nose, Israeli, pushed, date juice, with blue and black fruit, sweet, ripe, round, lacking acid, really ripe! pass

2016 Covenant Syrah, Israel – Score: 85
Tasted blind, I knew this wine was far more professional than anything red up until this point, other than the Netofa wines. That said, it was ripe and really pushed, showing loads of blue and red fruit, with hints of complexity. The mouth was OK, showing nice fruit, good mouth drying tannin, but it lacked acid, with enough to get your attention, but the attention came with a load of date juice and overripe fruit. Interesting enough. Drink up!

2014 Tzora Shoresh, Red – Score: 86
The nose is nice, the mouth is ripe but not altogether bad. It is not a wine I would buy. Sad though that a wine I loved a couple of years ago is showing this way now. The wine has loads of fruit, no soul, no acid, soft tannin, no structure. I would drink up ASAP!

2012 Yarden Pinot Noir – Score: NA
Dead, oxidized, and disgusting.

Day 2 (at AD’s house in Beit Shemesh)

This tasting was far worse than the previous tasting. Even fewer drinkable wines. The only saving grace were wines I will write up next, Yaacov Oryah’s wines which were a breath of fresh Israeli air. Bravo to Yaacov and the work he puts in!

2017 Cotes du Rhone, Frederik David – Score: 80
The best part of this wine was the nose, it shows mineral, grapefruit, strawberry, and nice fruit, with a bit of heat. Sadly, the mouth was pure pain, this was not as fun as I had hoped, sadly it is unbalanced and too hot.

2016 Elyon Supreme Wine, White – Score: 86
This wine is a blend of Emerald Riesling and Muscat. A very interesting blend, and one that actually is drinkable for those that like off-dry whites.
The nose shows nice fruit, tart but sweet with paraffin, and guava, almost pineapple. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is round, sweet, but balanced, not bad, with guava, lychee, almost semi-sweet, a bit off-dry. Nice.

2016 Bat Shlomo Chardonnay – Score: NO
This wine was truly just painful, pineapple, and banana, and flat. The mouth was oaked banana juice.

2017 Lueria Unoaked Chardonnay – Score: 89 to 90
This was fun, finally, a wine that was not painful. The nose on this wine is pure lemon juice, with loads of lychee, and grapefruit. The mouth is nice, well balanced, with good acidity, gooseberry, and straw, and grass, and nice, with good fruit focus, and nice tart lemon/lime, really fun, tart and refreshing. Nice. Lots of slate and rock, mineral. Nice! Drink now.

2017 Tulip Espero White – Score: 82
This wine is a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, and Colombard. The wine has a nice enough nose, lemongrass, lemon/lime. The mouth starts off acidic, but it has no acid in the back, no to little fruit, and it feels round and boring.

2017 Recanati Med Blend – Score: 88
This wine is a blend of French Colomard, Roussanne, and Chardonnay. This is the first year I have seen this wine and it is a nice enough start. The nose is nice, showing gooseberry, grass, cats pee, but the fruit is too ripe. The mouth is round, oily, nice, with good acidity, showing guava, lemon/lime, and good fruit. The finish is long and tart, green notes, orange blossom, and lemongrass galore, with mineral and slate. A bit round and out of sorts, but nice enough. Drink now.

2017 Gamla Riesling – Score: 88
Nice off-dry Riesling with good petrol, but lacking the depth and body, and a bit disjointed. The mouth on this wine shows loads of guava, pineapple, and hints of banana. This is nice still for those that like an off-dry Riesling.

2017 Lueria Pinot Grigio – Score: NO
Sadly this was an oak bomb disaster. Pain.

2016 Bat Shlomo Orange Chardonnay – Score: NO
I had written down some notes and then the word NO, pure pain, This was meant to be an orange wine, and sadly, all I can say about it was NO, sad.

2016 Kishor GSM – Score: NO
Sadly, this wine has changed a fair amount since the last time I had this wine. The nose is pure pain, pure alcoholic date juice, and the mouth is no better.

2013 Carmel Merlot, Sha’al Vineyard – Score: NO

2016 Elyon Cabernet Sauvignon, Supreme Wine – Score: 70
The nose on this wine shows a massive blackcurrant fruit bomb, with a bit of smoke, and not much else. The mouth is round and average at best. Sweet, not balanced, black olives, and loads of tannin and pain.

2016 Capsouto Samuel – Score: NA
Sad, I loved this wine in the past, this wine was clearly a bad bottle.

2010 Chateau du Rocher – Score: NA
Oxidized mess

2016 Cotes du Rhone, Frederick David – Score: NA
This wine was even worse than the previous bottle, it is hot and oxidized

2012 Cuvee Terroir, La Gravielle Chinon – Score: 82
Not a horrible wine, the nose is classic Pinot in style, with dark cherry, smoke, terroir, and earth, nice. The mouth is green, boring, and round, with average tannin. The finish is more green, tobacco, and that is about it. I have tasted this wine in the past, and it was fun then, I will taste it again, I think that was a bad bottle.

2016 Tzora Judean Hills, red – Score: 87
This wine is a blend of 45% Syrah, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Petit Verdot. Finally, a wine I can smell, showing dark fruit, pomegranate, and dark plum, with green notes, and loads of fruit. Sadly, the mouth is round, really pushed, with fruit focus showing the clear effects of the Syrah and Petit Verdot, with blackberry, cassis, ripe boysenberry, and nice spice with cinnamon and chocolate. The finish is long with green notes with tobacco and mineral with menthol. Drink soon.

2016 Carmel 4 Vats – Score: 80
Nice enough nose, but the mouth is date juice.

2017 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: NO
Sadly, this wine is an unbalanced mess.

2016 Chateau Les Riganes – Score: NO
Oxidized mess, big pass. I have had this wine at home now, both the mevu and the non-mevu versions, all of them are oxidized and dead.

Posted on December 10, 2018, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher French Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher Semi Sweet Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Industry, Wine Tasting. Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. Hi David

    We are not making any date juices or lumber tasting wines. From the beginning of the winery we are respecting the grapes. I will be at Sommelier this year (too expensive to participate every year) and I invite you to taste in order to destroy a few myths: – Israeli “respectful (I mean of the grapes) wine is aging quite well: i will have a few 2011 and 2012 bottles for you to taste. In fact might still have some 2012. – 2016 wine (2 CS,M, Malbec) blends and one Malbec) were surprisingly tasty and indeed had to be severely controled in order not to derive to date juice. This has to do with controlling maturity of the grapes and chosing the right barrels. – you experienced a bad bottle of Rosé stupidly bottled by my (ex) worker in a freshly SO2 washed bottle before general bottling day. Please give the 2018 another chance. So…when are you visiting? Be well my dear Max

    • Looking forward to tasting your wines soon good sir. Sadly, I will not be at Sommelier, but on my next trip to Israel, I will swing by or call you up. Thanks!

  2. Please explain what you mean by “date juice”?

  3. You should review the story of the Meraglim. Even if you are 100% correct in your assessment of Israeli wines, speaking negatively about something from Israel is not a good idea.

    On Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 1:30 AM Wine Musings Blog wrote:

    > winemusings posted: “Another year and another disappointment for Israeli > wines overall. I have recently returned from a quick trip to Israel to be > at the last of three JK and LK’s weddings that they have thrown this year > for their boys. This was the oldest son, and a young ma” >

    • I have had this EXACT discussion with many a Rabbi. Is posting my impressions of wines, NOT of Israel, Loshon Harah? I never have and never will speak ill of Israel, I love the land, people, and country. If you read the post you will see that all I am stating is that the wines being made now, in Israel, are not for me, but if you enjoy them, please continue to drink them!

    • Marc, In addition to what David wrote. He has also quoted Pierre Miodownick, the winemaker for Netofa, as saying you can make old world wines in any climate. The issue here is the wineries choosing to make ripe wines to cater to the public that keeps buying these wines. Some of the Israeli wines of the past i.e. Yarden reds pre 2006 were world class wines and old world in style. If anything most of us are bemoaning the fact that we keep trying to give Israeli wines/wineries a chance to make those old world wines but they keep on (intentionally) making overripe wines.
      With that said we all love Israel.

  4. Yamine Assouline

    Good evening,

    i fully agree with you on everything you wrote!! the ‘ma hadash’ concept has destroyed it all.. when it takes 100 years for a sangiovese cepage or others,you find them in insrael with most of the wineries.. i was one of the first one to discover Capcanes ,some 15 years ago in Barcelona and this has nothing to do what you drink today. the guy chose profitabilty wich is sad and people who are still today giving him credit! YA YA

    Le mar. 11 déc. 2018 à 07:30, Wine Musings Blog a écrit :

    > winemusings posted: “Another year and another disappointment for Israeli > wines overall. I have recently returned from a quick trip to Israel to be > at the last of three JK and LK’s weddings that they have thrown this year > for their boys. This was the oldest son, and a young ma” >

  5. Very sad news. I guess I have learned my lesson about blindly sticking up on Tzora. When can we expect some reviews of the ’16 French vintage?

  6. Interesting perspective from a obviously knowledgeable source.

    • Thanks, I really hope things will change for the better. Sadly, the market is driving these changes and until that changes, the wineries will not change.

  7. Total about face on Riganes 16 no?

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